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Because It is Necessary to Be Online Today, the Continuing Digital Divide Poses a Serious Challenge to Policymakers

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2013 – The increasing prevalence on job applications being online is just one of many reasons why it is vital to “close our nation’s digital divide and [improve] digital literacy,” Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., said Thursday.

Having more people connected would in turn allow more people to have access to jobs and vital information, she said, speaking at the kickoff of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband summit here. Of job applications, 80 percent are online only. (Presentation materials here.)

Echoing similar statements she made at recent joint committee hearing regarding the World Conference on International Telecommunications summit from December, Matsui said that the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to everyday life.

Others at the FCC event, which was jointly hosted with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, spoke about addressing the condition referred to as the “digital divide.”

John Horrigan, Vice President of the Media and Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that “broadband adoption…is not a given in our society.”

Citing high cost as a major roadblock to broadband adoption, Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation, said that one in three Americans resist broadband services. Low-income families with children do not have the financial flexibility to afford broadband, he said.

Similarly, higher-income families who could adopt broadband are choosing not to do so, he said. These people may work long hours at work and, with broadband at work, don’t want it at home.

Additionally, the “greatest gap in home broadband adoption is among African American and whites who did not complete high school,” said Valerie Wilson of the National Urban League. Though price is a major factor, Koutsky believes that more than half of those who do not engage with broadband would not do so at any price.

While panelists agreed that broadband adoption was a necessity, members also spoke of the need for the public to improve their digital skills to adapt to the ever changing online climate. “This gathering is a sign of optimism,” said Horrigan.

In order to formulate a more pro-active broadband future, greater public-private partnerships are necessary, panelists agreed. Also, more competition would lead to more prices and more creative offerings, said Horrigan. He said that working to create and facilitate applications marketed towards specific sectors, such as educational institutions and the medical field, would help enhance broadband adoption and use.

Chertoff, Genachowski Join FCC Cybersecurity Roundtable

in Cybersecurity/FCC by

WASHINGTON May 17, 2011- As part of National Small Business Week, the Federal Communications Commission assembled leading experts for a cybersecurity roundtable discussion on Monday and unveiled a set of new partnerships aimed at educating the public.

“A recent Symantec study found that American small businesses lose billions annually to cyber-attacks, and 74 percent of small and medium businesses reported being affected by cyber-attacks in the past 12 months,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “The average cost of each cyber-attack to small and medium sized businesses is nearly $200,000.”

As more business expand their online presence they become increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks which have ranged from the stealing of customer data to intellectual property theft.

Cheri McGuire, vice president of global government affairs & cybersecurity policy at Symantec said that a recent survey conducted by the company found that nearly 50 percent of small businesses do not have a cybersecurity plan and 40 percent claimed that that data protection was not an important tissue for them.

“Protecting data needs to become as common and important as putting money in a safe to protect it,” said former Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. “The only way to fully protect from a cyber-attack is to not connect to the internet at all, but that is just not realistic. We must instead learn how to mitigate its effects and offer adequate protection.”

Chertoff suggested that small businesses take simple precautions, such as not using free Wi-Fi connections to conduct business transactions or ensuring that passwords are regularly changed as a baseline in protecting against attack.

Dr. Phyllis Schneck, chief technology officer at McAfee Public Sector, added that in addition to protecting the network from attack over the internet businesses need to be aware of their physical networks.

“Connecting a foreign USB key to a networked computer is the easiest way to gain entry into a secure network,” Schneck said. “This simple act of connecting unidentified hardware can easily bring down a network.”

In an effort to educate the business community the FCC announced that it will partner with U.S. Chamber of Commerce, McAfee, Symantec, SCORE and the National Urban League to develop a unified cybersecurity tip sheet.

“We wanted to create a single message to provide the best information possible without confusing people by offering different sets of guidelines,” Genachowski said.

The FCC also plans to hold a cybersecurity education event later this year in association with SCORE’s eBusiness Now program.

To expand education amongst the general public, the Commission plans to join the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).

“The NICE partnership runs the Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign, which is designed to raise awareness among the American public about the need to strengthen cybersecurity—and to generate and communicate new approaches and strategies to help Americans increase their safety and security online,” Genachowski explained.

The FCC also issued a Tip Sheet which provides simple tasks people can take to protect themselves, including: “Secure your Wi-Fi networks” and “If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure and hidden.”

The Tip Sheet along with additional information can be found at the newly launched CyberSecurity section of the FCC’s site, http://www.fcc.gov/cyberforsmallbiz

Minority Groups Band Together to Obtain BTOP Funds

in Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2010 – The Broadband Opportunity Coalition, a new coalition of civil rights organizations, announced a plan to promote Broadband adoption and literacy among minority and disadvantaged communities. The coalition was formed in response to encouragement by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for groups to coalesce around shared goals.

The group plans to engage the policy arena with several key initiatives. The first is an educational program designed to reach “public policy makers and decision makers in the public and private sectors of the importance of broadband,” according to coalition spokesman and president of the National Urban League Marc Morial. Also involved in this educational initiative will be a grassroots push for further broadband adoption within targeted disadvantaged communities.

The second element of the group’s strategy is institutional, as the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council filed two pleadings with the FCC calling for new hearings on broadband within disadvantaged communities. One proposal calls for 15 new hearings, with 8 taking place in urban areas and 7 taking place in rural areas.

The coalition has already made plans for further educational outreach, should broadband access be expanded to minority/disadvantaged communities in the way they have advocated. Coalition member Rey Ramsey noted that, once the cost issues surrounding hardware and infrastructure have been resolved, the group will employ young people to act as “broadband ambassadors” to train older citizens.

“What we are looking to do is make sure we focus like a laser beam on broadband to make sure it is available, it is affordable, and we adopt it,” Ramsey said.

Minority Groups Want Special Rules For Tribal Areas

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA Comments by

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2009 – A number of groups representing minority interests are advocating that special rules be created by the government for Native Americans applying for broadband stimulus grants.

The awards are being decided by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities, which were charged by Congress in January to distribute $7.2 billion of federal funding to expand broadband penetration across the country.

“[W]e recommend that NTIA and RUS consider creating special rules and allocating increased funding for tribal areas to ensure these communities are included in the digital economy,” according to the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Asian American Justice Center, League of United Latin American Citizens, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Urban League and One Economy Corp.

In public comments on the broadband grant application process, the minority groups “recommend that additional funding be allocated to promote capacity building efforts among local tribal nations.” This funding would help separate tribal areas create their own plans to maximize broadband funds, according to the document filed to the NTIA.

According to a study released last month by the Native Public Media and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, the Native American population is one of the most disconnected groups in the country.

“Native Americans are among the last citizens to gain access to the Internet, with access to broadband often unavailable or overly expensive in Native communities,” according to the research. The paper suggested the Federal Communications Commission create a tribal broadband plan within the national broadband plan that it is currently drafting. The Government Accountability Office wrote in 2006 that the penetration rate for broadband access in the Native American communities was less than 10 percent.

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